Some naming guidelines

One of the turning points in a budoka’s lifetime is when he or she is given teaching responsibilities. This is not a sudden thing of-course, and they are expected to continue study under their sensei (and sempai) for years to come. Eventually the budoka becomes a senior teacher and may either take over their sensei’s position or even leave to start a new group. This is of-course an orthodox/ideal path. Some people are suddenly found – for no reason other than chance – that they have to become a leader of a group, or – for more personal reasons – decide to start a group earlier than expected*.

When a new group is started one of the first things to decide is what you call yourselves. Unfortunately, in the Japanese budo community today (across many martial arts) there are some strange names in use. Usually this is through no fault of their own, but simply a lack of Japanese language skills. In the internet age it should be easier to do some research into whats-good-and-whats-strange, and with more people coming to Japan to study budo (and the language) I imagine group-naming will improve.

Personally I have been involved in inheriting a group suddenly, have created my own group, and have been involved in advising people on what to call their new groups over the past few years. Although I cannot tell you what to name your own group, hopefully this small article can help you choose a name – if you choose to use something Japanese – that won’t cause potential awkwardness in the future (believe me, I’ve seen it!).

Note that I’ve used ‘group’ throughout the introduction, the reason for which will become clear below.

* You cannot open a new group under the auspice of the Osaka kendo federation unless you are nanadan

Before we even start to talk about what to call your group, the easiest thing to determine is which SUFFIX you should use. Budo groups in Japan follow some pretty standard rules, so lets have a look at some good examples to explain what I mean:

Mid 19th century-pre-war schools:

tobuKAN (Ozawa Torakichi. Built 1874.)
shumpuKAN (Yamaoka Tesshu. Built 1882.)
museiDO (dai-yon kotogakko bujutsu dojo. Built 1887)
meishinKAN (Takano Sasaburo. Built 1890.)
Waseda daigaku gekkikenBU (Naito Takaharu. Founded 1897)
butokuDEN (Butokukai. Built 1899.)
shudogakuIN (Takano Sasaburo. Built 1918.)
Noma DOJO (Noma Seiji. Built 1925.)

Modern kendo/iaido/etc schools and spaces (I’ve used those that I am involved in):

yoseiKAI (Osaka)
eikenKAI (Osaka)
sumiyoshi budoKAN (Osaka)
nippon budoKAN (Tokyo)
edinburgh kendo CLUB (Edinburgh)

Suffixes are split into two types, depending on your relationship to your physical structure/keiko space:

    1. Physical structures


The kanji 館 (kan) refers to a hall or building, usually of large size. Originally it referred to a guesthouse/eatery. KAN is used in everyday Japanese in words like bujitsuKAN/hakubutsuKAN (art/history museum), toshoKAN (library), bunkaKAN (cultural centre), etc etc.

Budo-wise, if you are using KAN then you should be referring to a solid, unmoving building, probably – but not necessarily – large. Inside this structure you could have a single keiko space, or many; multiple groups (with different names) could be using it.


The kanji 院 originally designated a larged fenced structure but has over time come to means something that is connected with the state (including schools and hospitals), and includes religion. In everyday Japanese you can see this in byoIN (hospital), daigakuIN (graduate university), and the names of scores of temples, e.g. byodoIN in Kyoto.

Budo-wise its similar to KAN above but has a more spiritual or educational sounding quality to it. Perhaps it is connected to a religious facility or/and also offers education classes of some sort.


Den 殿 and TO(DO) 堂 also refer to specific halls or structures, but nowhere as large as KAN or IN above. TO has basically no other meaning than “hall” but DEN can refer to military barracks.

Budo-wise these suffixes are the least used, especially nowadays.


The meaning of dojo 道場 has a few connotations in the English language now and has its own usage that is different from Japanese, which makes explanation here difficult. Let me try and explain it from an ex-pat living in Japans view.

The original term is said to have come from Buddhist terminology (translated from Sanskrit to Chinese), and refers to the location where Shakyamuni reached enlightenment. After that it was used in China for a period to refer to temples and from there eventually came into Japan via Buddhism.

The use of the term in the budo community is said to have started only in the Meiji period (1868+), before then places to keiko were simply called keiko-BA (場) or keiko-location/spot. There was no mysterious or psychological connotations in the BA usage, so whomever decided to first use the term DOJO probably had a more esoteric goal in sight. Its important to note that the JO in doJO and the BA in keiko-BA are the same kanji.

In Japan nowadays, a dojo is used to refer to a place where some sort of study is taking part. Like using the verb KEIKO (稽古 practise of something that requires a ‘more’ ascetic training) instead of RENSHU (練習 physical or mental practise of something), saying your are going to do “yoga KEIKO at the DOJO” sounds more esoteric and cool… almost like you are putting in more effort. There are even English conversation dojo’s nowadays.

So, budo-wise, a dojo has come to mean a physical location where you practise (keiko) your art (or follow your “way”). However, almost no group calls themselves “X-DOJO” unless its a physically location privately owned by an individual or a family, e.g. Noma Dojo or the nickname for Chiba Shusaku’s Genbukan, Chiba dojo.

A large structure (i.e. a KAN or an IN) may have multiple dojo inside it with different names. Large sports centres in Japan (and many schools/universities) often have 1 or 2 dojo built in, usually called “Number 1 dojo” and “Number 2 dojo” (or “big” and “small”) or sometimes “kendo-JO,” “judo-JO,” or “budo-JO” (the only difference usually being if tatami is down or not).

As you can see here, there are 2 things happening here: a) a ‘dojo’ as a physical unmoving space, and b) a ‘dojo’ as some sort of conceptual place to practise a ‘way.’ Its my believe that the latter is a very modern construct, perhaps born out of the fact that many groups no longer own their own space now.

Anyway, even if you don’t own your practise space, its still common to call it a dojo but you wouldn’t call your group that.

    2. Groups

Unless you practise kendo in a privately owned physically location then you fall into this category.

KAI (club)

Almost every group who practices a martial art in Japan but that doesn’t own their practise space calls their group x-KAI (会). Its by far and away the most common suffix in use for not only budo clubs, but many many other types of association or even one-of assemblies (e.g. taiKAI). Its also relatively common in Japan to use the term クラブ (club) to refer to a group. There is absolutely no difference in the terms KAI and CLUB.

KAI’s often practise in physical keiko spaces as described above, but also school or sport centre kendo-JO’s, gymnasiums etc.

Popular variations on KAI are x-KEN-YU-KAI (x剣友会) and x-KEIKO-KAI (x稽古会). KEN is obviously, the YU portion is the kanji for friend. Keikokai have a more friendly, relaxed feel to it… like a group of friends who get together without for a bash (with no instruction).

If you have a group (KAI/CLUB) that teaches, for example, both kendo and iaido then you may have an umbrella KAI-name for your group, and then a kendo-BU and iaido-BU under that (see below).


The kanji 部 simply means “department” or “club/team” and is almost always used to refer to groups in schools, universities, and business. e.g. Panasonic kendo-BU or Tokyo University kendo-BU. They may or may not practise in a fixed physical location. e.g. The Imperial guards kendo-BU in Tokyo practise in SaineiKAN, but the Sogo-keibi-kendo-BU (a well known security guards team) in Osaka rotate around different sports centres, some dojo called “Number 1” and others with names.


Kyoshitsu (教室) is a basic term that means “class(room).” Although not as popular as KAI you do see x-kendo-kyoshitsu now and then, and it usual infers teaching children.

Juku (塾) is another seldom used term that insinuates some sort of coaching going on. In daily Japanese it simply refers to the cram schools that students commonly go to after school.

Suffix done, what about the rest?

Ok, so thats the easy bit done: you’ve decided on x-KAI or whatever, but what do you put before that? When thinking of a name, many groups naturally want to use Japanese. Thats great but it can be fraught with difficulties. The best bet is to ask an experienced Japanese teacher for some naming possibilities or ask someone who is fluent in Japanese to do some research. Remember individual kanji can have multiple meanings as well as readings, and its always best to check that the meaning in Japanese AND Chinese is ok, as they don’t always match. What you pick is ultimately your decision, so choose wisely.

The first situation where I was involved in name-choosing was when I (suddenly and unexpectedly) inherited what was to become Edinburgh Kendo Club. The current name of the club was a nice Japanese one, but after searching on the internet I found quite a few places (across different martial arts) with the same name. So – after some research and chatting to my Japanese kendo friends – I renamed the club simply to “Edinburgh Kendo Club.” In Japanese I simply changed the CLUB to KAI… which I probably didn’t need to! The club name now did exactly what it says on the tin. Another group I named is Eikenkai (the 英 taking the double meaning of me being British and also that many members speak English). Over the years I’ve helped in the naming of a few groups, and I almost always suggest something plain, easily understandable, and vetted for accuracy.

Please note that these are guidelines – what you choose to call your group is up to you, but if you use Japanese please take some time to research the ‘correctness’ of it. There are also exceptions to these guidelines even in Japan itself. Anyway, I hope this article was of use!

On shinai length 竹刀の長短

Yamaoka Tesshu wrote this small piece in 1883, while kendo (then variously called gekkiken, kenjutsu, shinai uchikomi, etc) was nowhere near the shape it is now. Although the discussion of shinai length might not seem relavant to some nowadays, its a topic that comes up quite a lot if you read kendo commentary from the early-mid 1900’s, and not a few famous sensei experiment with shinai length/weight even today.

Tesshu’s Itto-shoden-muto-ryu uses a shinai of 3 shaku 2 sun in length (96cm’s) and are considerably heavier than standard shinai.

The length of the shinai was set for the first time to 3 shaku 8 sun (115cm’s) by the head kenjutsu instructor of the Shogunate’s Kobusho (military training center), Odani Nobutomo (jikishinkage-ryu) in the 1850-60s.

Sword length has been set to be 10 fist-lengths since a long time (Tesshu maybe be referring to the kobusho rule mentioned above). This size – about 1/2 of your body length – is said to make it easier for you to strike your enemy. Despite this rule, many schools have passed on the tendency to use shorter swords anyway, for example some schools advocate using a sword of about 8 fist-lengths. A shorter length sword requires you to make up the deficiency in length through your spirit.

During the Tenpo period (1830-1844) there was swordsman from Yanagigawa-han (Fukuoka) called Oishi Susumu. He prized victory above all things and used a shinai of over 5 shaku in length (modern day mens shinai are 3 shaku 9 sun or about 120cms; 5 shaku is around 150cms). He came to Edo and went around all the dojo challenging and winning most of his fights. Oishi was said to have fought even Chiba Shusaku (famous and highly influential Itto-ryu swordsman and shihan at Genbukan). Against Oishi’s massive 5 shaku+ shinai Chiba used a barrel lid as a tsuba. However this was just a “game” and not something that I would deign to call a kenjutsu shiai.

After this time kenshi from across various schools – in ignorance of their own tradition – have simply followed the fashion and believe that using a longer shinai is better. Their shallow learning and ignorance is deplorable: anybody who desires to study swordsmanship must not look only at the outer aspect of winning and losing in competition.

Nowadays various ronin proclaim themselves masters/teachers and riding on this boast are able to make a living. Their success depends on the fortunes of dojo challenges, and its from here that the popularity of the “longer is better” idea has sprung from.

If we look at how to restore kendo to its proper state, we should start first by returning the length of shinai to that of the older styles, and think about what it means to duel someone with a live sword.

  • Yamaoka Tesshu, Meiji 16 (1883), September.

山岡鉄舟:剣禅話 。徳間書店.高野 澄(翻訳)


As some people who read the kenshi247 Facebook page know, yours truly was in a traffic accident and and hospitalised (initially) for a month: cycling on the way home from work on the 8th of September I was hit from behind by a car, resulting in a compression fracture of the vertebrae, i.e. what’s sometimes referred to as a “broken back.”

Sounds terrible, I know, but I was relatively lucky: only a single bone was fractured and I suffered nothing else other than a few scrapes and bruises. I had a cast around my back-abdomen/chest area for 10 days, and am currently consigned to wearing a corset/brace for the next couple of months or so. I can walk fine and – given time – I’m expected to make a full recovery. The fact that I’m in pretty good shape due to kendo probably helps to speed this up. Not so bad, considering. I don’t want to think about what could have happened had the accident been worse.

It’s been exactly 3 weeks since the accident and it looks like I’ll be allowed to leave a couple of days short of a month. The first few days where painful and full of worry, I panicked that I may not be able to do kendo again. In fact one of the nurses said it would be impossible… which I admit scared the life out of me for a minute or so before I thought “I’ll show you!” At any rate, I plan to be back in the dojo asap, for kengaku at first, then with my men on and scrapping by the start of next year.

During the first 2 weeks so many people came to visit me that I was a bit overwhelmed: over 60. I got so much food that I had to refuse the hospital meals (thank god!) in an effort to eat what I was given. The fact that I am vegetarian (and have been for 20 years) threw the kitchen staff into turmoil resulting in random (almost always non-veggie) dishes. Had my friends not given me food I would have probably starved! If your vegetarian and living in Japan don’t get hit by a car.

Most of the people that came were kendo people of course, from my students to hachidan sensei. In fact, one of those sensei suddenly arrived to find me lying on top of my bed in only my cast and pants (I mean “pants” in the British sense)… it was hot after all!!!

Obviously I’ve had a lot of free time to contemplate the accident and to think about kendo. Up until now, kendo has just been another part of my life, something I take for granted. Occasionally I have pondered over the fact that I am lucky in my kendo situation/environment – usually when I a starry-eyed visitor from abroad comes – but I never *really* thought about about exactly how lucky I am just to be able to do kendo.

Serious kendo study requires that you are in pretty good health (especially if your keiko volume is high), are relatively well-off, and have the time to spare… things that maybe some of us take for granted. I know I did. Had I been born under different circumstances perhaps kendo would have been impossible or just some sort of silly fantasy. Something to ponder.

The sheer amount of kendo friends, sempai, and sensei that visited me has reinforced what I’ve long believed to be one of the main outcomes of a successful pursuit of kendo: the forging of trusted relationships, the creation of an extended social circle, and a feeling of belonging. In that way I gained a lot of confidence in my kendo life just lying on my hospital bed.

Apologies for the chatty, attention-grabbing over-sentimental blog-like post: I’ll shut up now and hopefully start work on some real content for the site soon.

Lifetime kenshi: Ikeda Yuji sensei

Situated in the second most populous area of Japan, and the heart of the Kansai region lies Osaka. Not as over-the-top busy and stuffed full of people like Tokyo, the city is easily navigable (even by bicycle) and its population friendly. The two main areas in the city – Umeda and Namba – are known to the locals respectively as “Kita” (north) and “Minami” (south). In the center of Minami you can find the Osaka Prefectural Sports Gymnasium. Its here every March where the O-zumo Haru-basho (Sumo spring competition) takes places. Its also the home of Yoseikai.

I have written an article about the 2nd shihan of Yoseikai, Furuya hanshi before, this time I want to introduce his sempai and the first shihan of the dojo: Ikeda Yuji hanshi.

Furuya sensei talks about meeting Ikeda sensei for the first time

“About 5 or 6 years after the war ended (1950/51) I received a letter from a Busen sempai of mine who I had never met, Ikeda Yuji (at that time Ikeda sensei was 38 and Furuya sensei was 25). It simply read: “I’d like to start a Busen alumni association and I would like you to help.” I turned up at the agreed time and place (an Izakaya in Namba) to find Ikeda sensei and 21 other Busen graduates. Ikeda sensei’s frame was so slight that at first you had to wonder if he had actually graduated such a tough school. He didn’t look it, but he was also a big drinker as well.

The stories that Ikeda sensei told about his Busen experiences at that first meeting really excited and motivated me, and I was so taken by Ikeda sensei’s personality, that I started calling him “uncle.”

At the time I met Ikeda sensei kendo was still banned in public. We were unable to contain ourselves and re-started keiko anyway in a dojo beneath a Nankai railway line. There were 7 of us and we were called the “seven samurai” with Ikeda sensei being the leader. It wasn’t before long that we were joined by many more kenshi, with some people even coming to visit from Tokyo. If was a time when people were poor and could hardly eat or drink, so keiko was fierce, like we had a fire in our bellies.”

19 kakarigeikos in 90 minutes

Ikeda Yuji was a member of the 23rd group to graduate Busen (1937). However, he initially failed the preliminary entrance course. Following this failure he did keiko in the morning and afternoon continuously for an entire year before he finally resat and passed the exams (the next year), thus gaining entrance to Busen proper. After passing the exams one of the lecturers – Sato Chuzo – said the following to Ikeda:

“You are so small/weak that we have no expectations for you at all. I wanted to tell you to just give up and go home but you came to us crying and begging for another year that I missed my chance (to tell you to go). Wakabashi sensei et al were so worried about this situation you created that they got sore heads. Anyway, you did well to pass.”

At 49kg’s in weight, Ikeda was too light and small in stature. His academic score on the test was 2nd from the bottom.

He was also reckless in keiko. During practise between teachers and students at the Butokuden, he would be busy putting on his men whilst everyone else was lining up and bowing. He would already be standing first in line for the top sensei with his kote tucked under his arms while the rest of the students and sensei had yet to tie their men. After kakarigeiko with a sensei it was normal to go to the back of the next sensei’s line and wait for your turn. Not for Ikeda. He wouldn’t wait, but lined up at the side of the person at the front of the next line. If he was told to get back, he wouldn’t budge. As soon as the student in front of him finished he would step right in front of the sensei pushing other students out of the way. Before they could do anything he was already doing kakarigeiko. In the end his transgressions silently became to be accepted.

One year during kangeiko Ikeda managed to do 19 consecutive kakarigeiko’s in a 90 minute keiko session. The other senior students were annoyed by his actions and tried to kick him around, but Ikeda was unmoved. After 90 minutes of kakarigeiko he couldn’t stand and was crawling in the Butokuden.

When his eyes opened he found him self in a restaurant on Yoshida street. The miso soup in this shop was tasty and favoured by Busen students. For eat-and-drink-all-that-you-can the price was 15 zeni in the morning, and 25 in the afternoon and evening (i.e. cheap). Busen students (including Ikeda) were apt to drink 5 bowls of miso soup and 15 bowls of rice in one sitting with east. The restaurant ran in deficit.

Kihongeiko and kendo no kata

In 1938 Ikeda was called up for one of two stints of military service. At the wars end he was in Manchuria and was interned in a Siberian labour camp for 4 years. After being released in 1949 he returned to Osaka and managed to get a job in a fabric wholesale company. It was a little bit after this time that Ikeda sensei and the 7-samurai mentioned at the beginning of the article re-started kendo in the city at the Nankai-dentetsu dojo. In 1952 a kendo competition was held in Nishinomiya city (Hyogo) and the Osaka team (with Ikeda as a member) got 2nd place.

Eventually Ikeda sensei went on to teach kendo at main places in Osaka (see timeline below) including becoming the shihan of Yoseikai. At that time keiko would be every day bar Sundays, and Ikeda sensei would come 3 or 4 times per week.

Ikeda sensei would stress the importance of kihon and recommended practising by yourself. He also spent a lot of time on kata.

At Yoseikai, after the main practise would finish he would do extra keiko with selected kenshi, perhaps 5 or 6 people for 30 minutes. He would bring the fight to these students and the keiko was very intense. His tsuki would never miss, and his kote from jodan (despite being small statured he sometimes fought jodan) was very fast.

One of Ikeda sensei’s favourite sayings was 「稽古一本酒三本」: “keiko ippon sake sanbon.” After keiko he would go to the izakaya and would lose track of time while talking about kendo things. As a man who devoted his lifetime to kendo he never broke his pursuit of kendo knowledge, and even at the end of keiko would tidy up his own bogu.

With success comes reflection

As told by Furuya sensei:

“Ikeda sensei’s tenouchi was outstanding. Because of this, sensei’s favoured technique was ‘kote kaeshi kote.’ His forward attacking men was brilliant as well, but his ability to receive and immediately turn the opponents power back on them using kaeshi waza was great. At the same time as receiving his opponents power he would strike their men or kote. Different from suriage waza, unless your tenouchi has been tempered finely you couldn’t copy his style.

But even Ikeda sensei had call to reflect on his use of the waza. One time when I asked Ikeda sensei to reminisce on his own teacher he told me the following story. Ikeda sensei met his teacher at Busen and was from the same prefecture – the aforementioned Sato Chuzo sensei. In 1954 – when Ikeda sensei was 40 years old – he won the Kokutai individual championships held in Hokkaido (Kokutai is a large and prestigious national sports competition that entails many sports and budo). After he won the title Sato Chuzo – who was a shinpan at the time – called over Ikeda sensei.

Ikeda, don’t dare show your kote and invite your opponent to strike it. Your favourite technique is kote-kaeshi-kote right? Don’t be stupid and blatantly open your kote to invite attack… you’d better stop that type of kendo right now. Kendo must be done honestly.

In this instant Ikeda sensei changed the way he viewed kendo. With the success of winning such a big shiai there also came reflection.”

Don’t be embarrassed about being hit

Again, told by Furuya sensei:

“It happened in Shudokan. Ikeda sensei was one of the teachers there, and one day he went to ask for keiko from another of the teachers, Hasegawa sensei. Hasegawa sensei was also a Busen graduate, but 7 years Ikeda sensei’s senior. At this time Ikeda sensei was in his early 50’s. When the two shihan began keiko everyone around them stopped to watch. Its rare that two shihan would keiko like this so the atmosphere was tense.

The first to move was Ikeda sensei, who launched into a morote-tsuki attack. Hasegawa sensei managed to use his shinai just in time to avoid the thrust from landing. The pair of sensei went back to chudan and the keiko commenced. Just as Ikeda sensei was about to launch another attack Hasegawa sensei sprung forward and tsuki’ed Ikeda sensei so strongly that he flew back and into the waiting line of kenshi, of which I was top of the line. Straight away Hasegawa sensei thrust again and Ikeda sensei’s body flew into mine.

Its very rare for senior sensei to go to more-senior sensei for keiko in front of so many students. Ikeda sensei toppled over in front of me. On a different day I again saw Ikeda sensei go to Hasegawa sensei for keiko. Ikeda sensei was not embarrassed about being struck, rather he admitted his inexperience and thanked Hasegawa sensei for teaching him (remember Ikeda sensei was at least 8dan at this time).

The image of that tsuki and Ikeda sensei collapsing into me is burnt into my mind.”

Sayings by Ikeda Yuji sensei

Do correct kendo, do kendo so that whoever looks at you thinks it is beautiful.

Small, shrunken kendo like a bonsai is bad, do kendo like a big tree with strong roots.

Kendo isn’t about theory. Its about seeking yourself through intense keiko. If you do this you will come to understand.

If you accept that something is impossible then it always will be. If you always avoid your opponents sword tip then you will never be able to defeat them.

Self-centered kendo is bad. There is an partner in front of you after all. If you do self-centered kendo then those watching will think “thats unpleasant” and you will be thought of as someone who does bad kendo. You must do kendo that is pleasant. Striking your opponents heart/spirit, or having your heart/spirit struck by your opponent is what kendo’s about, isn’t it?

They say “do kendo with abandon.” If you do your daily kendo like this, and if even 1/2 of this comes out during a shiai, you will win.

Even though you are swinging the shinai you don’t need power. Even though you are lifting the shinai up you don’t need power. Physical power is unnecessary. If you simply bring the shinai down it will cut.

In kirikaeshi its bad to just bash your opponents shinai recklessly. You have to tense your hands and – feeling the weight of your own shinai – immediately pivot the shinai round and strike the opposite side.

It doesn’t matter who you are, every person raises their hands before striking. Strike there. You have to be patient and wait until that moment.

Kendo is a lifetime activity. Its not just about striking and being struck, kendo isn’t as small as that.

Kendo is about harmony. You have a partner after all. You must consider your opponents feeling. Kendo isn’t something you can do on your own after all.

Simply learning the theory of kendo is no good. Kendo is only understood through physical experience. If you see the opponents kote come and you think “I’m going to evade it!” well, there simply isn’t enough time. Your opponent is also a living being. They don’t want to be hit. Thinking then attempting to strike is no good. You have to abandon oneself. Throw away everything and strike.

In your youth you must physically exert yourself to the utmost. During this period you will start to understand things like the correct opportunity to strike, and the theory behind actions. Keiko without exertion leads to nothing but small and hard kendo.

When you are doing keiko with senior people, even if you feel their strong pressure, you should attempt to strike. Even if it wasn’t the correct time to strike, aim to throw yourself into the cut and make your opponent move by doing so. If you do this over and over your emotional spirit, that is to say, your “heart” will come out. Eventually you will be able to cause your opponent to strike when agitated. He will end up simply blocking your attacks and your attacks/techniques will come out one after another.

When you think “Wow, thats a great technique, I want to learn it” you should steal it. Whether you are asleep or awake you should draw a picture of it in your mind. Naturally/eventually you will become to be able to do the technique.

“Shu-ha-ri” is something you repeat over and over. Whatever grade you become “shu,” whatever grade you became “ha,” its not “once you get to x-dan” then you are now in the “ri” stage, at least this is what I believe. It doesn’t matter what grade you are, you must always return to basics.

Do your keiko like your kata and do your kata like keiko.

Watching someone’s kata you can understand their kendo ability. How to grip the sword, how to move the body, kamae, presence… everything comes out in kata.

Timeline: Ikeda Yuji, hanshi hachidan

1914: born in Yamagata prefecture on the 13th of March.
1923: began kendo at 3rd year in primary school.
1932/1933: Entered into the Busen pre-training group in 1932 and – finally passing the exams a year later – enrolled in Busen proper in 1933. Sato Chuzo – also from Yamagata – became his main teacher.
1937: graduated Busen but stayed on in its research division.
1940: entered tenran shiai.
1942: he served as the kendo teacher for Sakai kogyo high school, and taught kendo and jukendo at Osaka prefectural university.
1945-1949: After the war he was interned in a Siberian labour camp for 4 years. After release he worked at a fabric wholesale company in central Osaka.
1950/51: helps create Busen alumni association and re-starts kendo at Nankai dentetsu dojo.
1954: he won Kokutai kendo individual championships aged 40.
1959 or 1963: becomes first shihan of Yoseikai.
1964: passes hachidan.
1969: receives hanshi
1971: Tozai-taiko west-team captain.
1976: all Japan kendo championships shinpan-cho. Served on the board to revise kendo no kata.
1991: passes away at 76.

Posts held: ZNKR director and public awareness committee member, Osaka kendo renmei permanent director, Kansai university kendo shihan, Osaka university kendo shihan, Asahi shinbun Osaka kendo shihan, Shudokan lecturer, Asahi culture center Senri kendo kyoshitsu lecturer, Yoseikai shihan, Yukenkai shihan, Juso kenyukai shihan.



Concerning the problem of tsuki 突きの問題について

The following is a translation of another short article by Takizawa Kozo hanshi. As someone who was never taught tsuki for many years of his kendo career I think I would have liked to have had Takaizawa hanshi’s advice on the matter earlier.

I started my own experiment (almost untaught) as a member of the British kendo team years ago: myself and a couple of friends all agreed that we would practise tsuki together; we weren’t really taught it, and poked each other for a year or two, slowly making some progress. Years later I now teach tsuki as a fundamental technique and have gone from merely thinking that its cool, to wondering how you could actually do kendo without it.

At any rate, the following article is from 1978, enjoy!

Concerning the problem of tsuki
making tsuki waza a central technique of children’s kendo

For a long time its been said “Kendo begins and ends with Tsuki” (a saying attributed to the teachings of Hokkushin itto-ryu). You can see this if you look at the composition of kendo no kata: you are expected to pressure the center of your opponents body with your kensen, and not remove it from there (this is expressed in zanshin as well).

After the war, it was declared that tsuki was too dangerous to be attempted by those of junior high school age and younger, and its use was outlawed in shiai of that age-range. Accordingly, its become the norm that the technique is not taught in normal practise anymore.

(Editor: Its possible that Takizawa sensei was suggesting that not only did children not learn the technique, but this special handling of tsuki influenced their kendo into adulthood as well. This is certainly my personal experience, where many people develop good kendo, yet are hesitant to use or even practise tsuki.)

Post-war kendo was re-conceived as a sport, and as such sportified new rules were created. Because of this, it became important to ensure safety, and elements of the traditional kendo pedagogy (pre-war) became undesirable, e.g. leg sweeping, grappling, pushing and shoving (with no aim of scoring), striking un-armoured areas, etc… these in fact became hansoku. On top of that – due to pain felt when hitting the ears – valid yoko-men strikes were limited to those above the ear only, and tsuki became a banned technique for those of junior high school age and below. Anything that was thought to be dangerous was constrained by the rules, and regulations were detailed minutely.

Pre-war kendo was conceived as budo (bujutsu), so things like leg sweeping, grappling, pushing and shoving, etc in fact there was even a time when over the top violent actions happened openly and without penalty. At this time, it was the case that older people, women, and youths hesitated to practise kendo.

(Editor: Women kenshi were extremely rare pre-war. The only time you hear of any are those that took part in Sakakibara’s gekkikenkai, where women were for show/curiosity, and very occasionally at places like Noma dojo. I don’t think its that they ‘hesitated’ but that they couldn’t train, but that they couldn’t.)

Nowadays kendo done by amateurs. That children, youths, women, and old people can all practise together is largely because there is a high level of safety involved. We should recognise this characteristic as one that is mainly responsible for the success of modern kendo.

On the other hand, because of this minute detailing of rules, we can see people doing this such as deliberately trying to break them, taking breaks in tsubazeriai, etc, basically we see a bad tendency to try various methods to win and the essential essence of kendo – etiquette, strictness, intensity – has become diluted.

In this way, even though we note the success of modern kendo, we must deeply consider and reflect on what its become. One example is the case where we have banned tsuki for use in children of junior high school age and below; to look at it a different way, if you consider the very basis of kendo – hitting a clear DATOTSU (打突) i.e. cutting (打) and thrusting (突) – we have removed the thrusting part (突) and as such its not an exaggeration to say what we are left with is a kendo that incomplete (deformed).

I looked at the (kendo) publics opinion on the matter of “tsuki as a dangerous technique.” In amongst people who claim this, there are those that simply say “tsuki is dangerous” without giving any concrete examples; their view is simply abstract. Instructors that get together and say this in one voice paint a bad image of pre-war kendo. In particular, although they accept that kendo should be used for educational purposes, those that teach kendo in schools are amongst the most vocal about the issue of danger.

In the situation that has risen as described above, where public (abstract) opinion says that “tsuki technique is dangerous” in spite of evidence to prove it and the technique has been banned in junior high schools and below, and because this situation obstructs the development/growth of kendo and inhibits the ability to transmit the traditional culture of kendo to future generations, we must impose on instructors to clarify tsuki technique (so that its proper use will be understood).

When the children that come to my dojo (6-12years old) are able to put on their bogu and perform kakarigeiko to a good level, the first thing I then teach is morotezuki. If you introduce tsuki at this age, they will naturally be able to acquire good technique. The purpose to have them study tsuki is that the children should be forced to understand the following points about the importance of kihon:

  1. Strike men as if aiming to tsuki, don’t let your kensen go outside your opponents center (correct chudan no kamae);
  2. It helps fix unnatural tenouchi (correct grip);
  3. Tsuki not with your hands, but with your hips (correct body movement);
  4. Modotachi receives by tucking their chin in and keeping posture (correct posture);
  5. If mododachi’s footwork is wrong (with their heal down on the ground) then there is a fear that they will be knocked over (correct ashisabaki);
  6. Both the motodachi and the technique executor become serious (feeling of tension).

Using tsuki technique to force the above understanding on students is useful.

From now on, I would like and expect those teaching children to teach tsuki not as a dangerous technique, but as a fundamental part of kendo’s basics; as a safe, efficient, important part of instructors teaching method, and for tsuki to be used more widely in general. If teaching children tsuki becomes open it will have the knock on effect of good technique later in life. To that effect, we must devise a method to increase instructors teaching ability.

Takizawa Kozo
Showa 53 (1978), January 20th.


思斉館滝澤道場 創立30周年記念誌。平成12年発行。非売品。 初代館長藩士九段瀧澤光三。